Thursday, May 31, 2012

Self doubt at the end of my taper

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

If this morning's run was a typical training workout, I would have been pleased by my performance. I pushed my speed somewhat, ran well and ended up pacing 20 seconds per mile faster than normal. So why complain about that? While I concede some performance due to the time of day (4 AM), I was hoping to finish this morning's route a full minute faster than I did.

I was speaking to my friend CK yesterday and mentioned the 8K on Sunday. I told him my goal target for time and pace and he said I should do that easily. Easy for him to say, he can run 7:00 miles any day of the week. When I was running this morning, I felt like I could push it another 10%, but after that it would be a challenge. When I returned to my house at the end of my run, I questioned whether I could even sustain the pace I'd run today over double the distance.

Last year I averaged 8:40 per mile for the ~ 5 mile NHP course. It was both a PR and a great surprise, since I'd paced 9:00 the prior two years. I've run well in races this year and did some speed work over the weekend, but I haven't done a run greater than 5 miles since May 19. I'm hoping the energy of race day, plus two days rest, decent weather and a performance mindset, will help me reach my goals on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where can I get a SAG card?

Making the scene, literally
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Only in NYC can you get to your office and not be surprised to see camera and lighting trucks setting up along the street. They're filming a major studio movie here and the subject matter relates to one of my company's iconic brands. This is the second time they've filmed here in the last few weeks and I have a great view of the action from my office window (see above). Hmmm, I wonder if they need any extras?  

This morning I did a treadmill run because the weather report had predicted rain. I'm not sure it was raining when I got up to work out, but the humidity indoors was extremely high. This was my penultimate run before the New Hyde Park 8K, so I increased my effort by adding some incline through my progressive speed workout.

I felt fine the entire run except for my feet that are still sore at the bottom. In an odd way, the soreness helped, because it took my mind off the hard effort of running in the heat and humidity. As strange as it sounds, I think that made a difference. Despite the hot conditions, my run seemed to go by quickly and it never really felt like it was too much to bear. One more run to go and my taper is complete. Then onto Hollywood. I mean New Hyde Park.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting to the bottom of my foot pain

Bottom Lateral Ouchiitis
I wore my new recovery slides yesterday in the hope that they'd help alleviate the persistent soreness I've had at the bottom of my feet. This is not plantar fasciitis, because the pain is specific to the inside lateral part of my feet, just below the toes. I'm pretty sure the cause relates to all the long pounding runs I did at Bethpage to train for the half marathon earlier this month. I've reduced my weekly mileage by 10% since completing that race and have only done one run longer than 8 miles since that day.

The pain is not terrible and it hasn't prevented me from running. But this pain, like the mild soreness that I've had with my Achilles tendon, is persistent and it can be uncomfortable at times. I've looked up my symptoms for lateral foot pain and, for runners, it seems to be a form of tendinitis. I'll continue using the recovery shoes and will also try to be more disciplined about soaking my feet with peppermint oil soap this week. I'm scheduled for a fast race on Sunday and I'm hoping to reduce the negative variables as much as I can.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hot run before a cool parade

A memorable parade on Memorial Day
Today's run (street): 3.9 miles

We needed to get out a little early this morning to get our son to the staging location for the Memorial Day parade. It was fun to see him come by, playing with the school band. After seeing friends and neighbors, it really felt like a small town event. By the time the parade was done, we were all ready to begin our Memorial Day lunch. Sure feels like summer, even if it hasn't quite arrived.

I'd planned to run on the treadmill knowing that we'd be under some time pressure in the morning. But the skies were bright at 7:00 AM, and I knew I couldn't stay inside. Instead, I geared up for an outdoor run and I considered the temperature (67°), but not the humidity (oppressive).

There was a breeze from the north when I started my run, and that made the air feel deceptively cool.  It soon became apparent that it was going to be hot. I tried to follow roads with tree shade on the left side but the sun was strong and so was the heat. I made the mistake of checking my pace nine minutes into the run, and that prompted me to speed up my progress. Normally that's desirable, but with the humidity, I may have been better off maintaining my prior rate.

As bad as it was, I didn't feel it was too hot to run. I capped my distance at 3.9 miles, but that had more to do with my limited time than to the heat. I ended up with an average pace that was 25 seconds per mile faster than my first mile. Since today's a holiday I decided to run today instead of taking my usual Monday rest day. I'll probably rest tomorrow and run on Wednesday and Thursday, before I take my usual two days off before my race.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

D'oh, a deer!

Rainy conditions on Stillwell's trails
Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 4 miles

Yesterday's workout was focused on speed and intensity so I thought I'd go for an easier run today. It's been a while since I've visited Stillwell Woods and a trail run sounded like a good idea. Just for fun, I downloaded a podcast from This is a trio of trail runners who record a weekly hour-long running-related program. I read about them in the April issue of TrailRunner magazine.

I have not run with a music player in years, but, with my new pocket-rich running shorts, I thought I might today. I'm glad I did, as the podcast was funny and interesting and I certainly recommend it. While I feel that listening to music or podcasts is dangerous on the road, at least I won't see any cars on the trail. Mountain bikes, yes. Deer, yes. But no cars.

I mention deer because I had a close encounter with one this morning. I was moving along nicely on a twisty section of singletrack, when my eyes caught a flash of beige about five yards ahead. Apparently I had surprised a large deer grazing in the woods. The deer jumped onto the path in front of me and took off very quickly. I literally said "What the @#$%!" when I saw it. Although I'd seen deer on my runs in the past, I'd never seen one at Stillwell.

Besides the deer sighting, there wasn't much happening on the trails this morning. It was raining lightly when I started and the rain intensified for a while during my run. The canopy overhead protected me, but I still got fairly wet. My only company besides the deer were three bikers who passed me on my way up a steep rise. The tables got turned when they sputtered out before reaching the top and I just kept going. To their credit they cheered me when I went by.

Ready for future recovery
Later in the day I returned some Adidas recovery slides that my wife bought to surprise me. It turned out that she ordered the wrong size, simply because she listened to what I told her. They are Adidas Superstars with a very comfortable foot bed. I look forward to wearing them after my next run.

Tomorrow morning we'll be at the Memorial Day parade to watch my son march with the school band. That will preclude a long morning run, but I'll probably do a treadmill workout as I begin my taper week. I've had some interesting experiences on the road, track and trail this weekend. Might as well add the treadmill to the mix.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Track challenges, real and virtual

Today's run (track intervals): 1 mile warm up, 8x 200's, 1 mile cool down

Since it's a long weekend, I thought I'd forgo my usual Saturday distance run in favor of intervals. I'm running the New Hyde Park 8K next weekend and felt that I needed to put in some speed work before winding down my training. It's been months since I've been to the track, so I was looking forward to a change of scenery.

I started my workout at around 8:00 AM with a mile warm up that I completed in 8:53. The humidity was high and the sun was already hot by the time I'd started. I followed my warm up with 8 x 200's, averaging 6:26/mile and I finished with a mile cool down that I ran at around 8:50. About halfway through that last mile I realized my Garmin wasn't recording properly, so my time so the cool down is an estimate.

The toughest run on the web
As tough as that workout was, I found an even bigger challenge on a different track with QWOP - a video game that you can play online. In this game, the user is challenged to move a track runner 100 meters by controlling only his thighs and calves. It's deceptively difficult, so far the best I've done is 17.4 meters. Before you judge that as lacking, try it yourself!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shorts success at the SOHO REI

Shorts but sweet
Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

My office is usually a ghost town on the day before a holiday weekend. Acknowledging that, my company officially closes our office at 1:00 PM. I chose to work from home this morning instead of coming in for half a day. We begin "Summer Friday's" next week, but this was the next best thing.

With no commute to worry about, I had more time to sleep in this morning. I've been feeling sleep debt lately so this additional rest was welcomed. After morning coffee and the news, I changed into my running gear and headed outside. The skies were cloudy, but free of rain. Humidity was high, but I figured that an outdoor run would be far preferable to the treadmill.

My route took me through the top of my neighborhood and then down to the bottom, and back. I ran well and ended up pacing a little better than my average. Since today was a week day, I encountered more cars than on a typical weekend morning. I spent more time than normal running on the sidewalk and was especially careful not to trip on misaligned concrete.

Although I didn't wear them today, I finally found a pair of good running shorts with pockets. Yesterday, me and KWL went downtown to check out REI's new location in SOHO that is having a big sale this week. It's an impressively large store and a good place to waste a few hours if you have them. We didn't, so we split up and headed for our respected areas of interest - cycling for him and running for me.

After considering options from Salomon, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware and REI brand, I bought a pair of Brooks Rogue Runner III's. The shorts have a 7" inseam, two side pockets, a small zipper pocket and an inside pouch. They'll be great for either the street or the trails.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

12 steps to changing your mind

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

My sleep was interrupted last night by a phone call from one of my daughter's friends. I had trouble falling asleep after that. My sleep schedule is already tight and, with my early rise time, I often wonder if I get enough rest. I finally did get back to sleep, but woke up a few more times throughout the night. Before I knew it, I needed to get up for the day.

In the minute it took me to get out of bed and make my way downstairs, I thought through the various options I had for my workout. Skipping my run altogether was my leading thought as I stood at the top of the stairs. But by the time I reached the foyer below, I had reconsidered that decision.

It was hot and humid at 3:45 AM and I was very tired, but I felt I needed to compromise. I would run, but instead of gearing up and going outside, I'd do my workout on the treadmill. I figured I could better throttle my speed and pick things up as I went along.

I had no guilt starting at 5.5 MPH because it's generally advised to run slower paces as humidity rises. I notched up my speed every two minutes and, after 15 minutes, turned on the treadmill's fans that cooled my sweat covered body. I eventually got to full speed for the last five minutes and stepped off the machine feeling like I had a great workout.

Despite being tired and unready to run when I got up, I managed to get myself in gear (literally) and ended up happier for it. My walk downstairs changed my mindset. 12 steps made all the difference.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brooks's PureDrift is good news for minimalist runners

A most minimal shoe - coming Jan 2013
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

Last night I predicted that it wouldn't rain this morning, so I set up my gear for an outdoor run. When I stepped outside, I realized that wishful thinking wasn't enough to ensure good weather conditions. I decided on the spot to run, despite the light rain that was falling. I figured, if conditions worsened, that I'd just turn around and head for home.

I didn't know it at the time, but my Garmin showed that I'd covered the first mile extremely slowly. I thought I was moving well, but it's hard to gauge your pace when you're still half asleep. The rain had let up after ten minutes so I guess I'd picked up the pace from there. I ended up averaging 9:50 for the run, which isn't all that bad.

I wore my test shoes again this morning and appreciated their minimal construction, low platform and comfort. However, I wished they were a little roomier on the lateral side, at the top. My toes do get a little squished, but so far, I've had no issues with blisters or chafing. The shoe is pre-market, so the fit will probably change many times before they launch.

Brooks announced a new model this week, with an expected launch date of January, 2013. I'm guessing I'm going to like them ; )

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When testing shoes, three can be a crowd

Testing 1,2,3
Today's run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

I'm feeling a little guilty regarding my delay in posting my reviews about the Spira Stingers and Saucony Kinvara 3's. I have written a fair amount on both shoes through this blog, so it's not like I haven't reported on them. Now, with the new shoes that I am testing for the manufacturer, it's even harder to focus on one particular brand.

I'm about halfway through my review of the Spiras, so I decided to wear them on this morning's run. Once again, the rain forced me to stay inside on the treadmill. It was extremely humid at the start, so I moderated my pace to prevent overheating. The treadmill has dual fans that throw a decent amount of air, but that was no match for today's heat.

After running so often in the Kinvaras, and more recently in my test shoes, I was better able to discern key differences between the three pairs. The Spiras, which I sized up by 1/2 to ensure a good fit in the toe box, are flexible at the mid-foot, but the uppers bag when the shoe flexes. I also noticed a little pressure from the wavesprings on the fore-foot, something I hadn't experienced before.

I ended up having a decent run, though I throttled my performance in deference to the heat and humidity. As I ran through my workout, my eyes locked on the the other two pair in my current rotation. If I had to choose only one shoe, which would it be? After today, I think the answer is starting to come to me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quest for pockets

Is this too much to ask?
Yesterday afternoon we stopped by Sports Authority to pick up some needed items and I was hoping to find a good pair of running shorts with side pockets. It's always puzzled me why men's running pants and running shorts often lack pockets. Most have a small pouch, but that's useless for anything bigger than a key or a credit card. I'd really like another pair with side pockets, so I can get quick access to my gel flask on longer runs.

The cynic in me thinks that pockets are excluded on running shorts to save manufacturing costs. I'm probably wrong about that. It's more likely that these shorts are designed to be lightweight, and provide maximum freedom of movement. This is true of my two pair of Adidas shorts that I love, despite their lack of storage.

Sports Authority disappointed me because most of their athletic gear is either Nike or Under Armor and I have an irrational dislike for those brands. To their credit, both offered running shorts with pockets. Adidas had no running shorts with pockets, period. The only other brand was New Balance. They had pairs of shorts with pockets, but I've found that NB's liners irritate me on longer runs.

I'm obviously too particular, as I could have bought what I wanted yesterday. Instead, I went online and looked at shorts from RaceReady, GoLight, Brooks, Mizuno, and others. There are also plenty of trail running shorts with side pockets out there, although most are pricey. I may take a trip downtown to REI or Paragon this week to see what they have. Or I can just give in and buy the Nikes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Running among the bikers at Bethpage

Many riders out for a good cause
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 8.2 miles

Yesterday morning's run was surprisingly difficult. I knew from the start that I was off my game and I hoped that I'd get back in the groove by today's run. Happily, I did. I headed to Bethpage this morning to run the bike trail, with a plan to cover about eight miles.

The weather was fantastic at 8:00 AM, with sunny skies, low humidity and a temperature of 52 degrees. The lot was filled with cars when I arrived at the park, and I saw that an MS charity bike ride was being staged at the trail head. I remembered this event from last year. It's a non-competitive ride that includes cyclists of all ages.

The bike path begins with a short, but pronounced, hill and I could tell right away that I'd have little trouble taking on Bethpage's challenges. I'd run this path numerous times during my half marathon training and could always gauge whether I was in for a good or bad experience within the first half mile. I decided to pick up the pace and see what I could handle.

I'd brought along my gel flask that I'd filled with a GU gel and water. I decided to hold off using that until I'd reached the halfway point, when I would encounter a series of steep rises. My energy was good, but the temperature, with the direct sun, was rising.The first hill was tough and the second two were tougher, but I made it over and back the Southern State in decent shape.

Throughout the run I encountered numerous cyclists, most of whom gave me a wide berth and warned me of their approach. There were a couple of jerks, as usual, who sped closely by, but the majority of riders shared the road respectfully.

I passed a number of other runners along the way, and that told me I was pacing well. I didn't look at my Garmin through most of my run, because I didn't want to be distracted by metrics. I parceled out my gel solution and wished near the end that I had mixed in two GU's rather than just one. But I never reached a point where I was close to bonking. I took on little K2 and Everest (my nickname for the last two hills) feeling quite confident.

I wore my test shoes and they performed really well. By mile seven, the bottoms of my feet were getting sore. I've experienced that with every pair I own of late. It may have something to do with running exclusively in shoes that lack stability control. Too bad, but I'm not switching back.

After I crested the final hill, I enjoyed the last downhill section that leads to the head of the path. The bike event volunteers were standing at the end waving pom poms and cheering the cyclists as they finished. They all gave me a big cheer as I crossed and I yelled, "Did I win?!" That was fun.

I did well today, 8 miles at a mid-9:00 pace. I was pleased, especially compared with yesterday's performance. My friend TC, who ran the LI Half with me, ran a 10K this morning in 49 minutes. Congrats to him. Also impressive was my friend KWL, who rode the 103 mile Grand Fondo from the GW Bridge to Bear Mountain (and back) today.

Quite the weekend for activity. Another colleague ran the Brooklyn Half yesterday. It's the season for racing. NHP 8K is happening in two weekends. Hope I feel as strong on that day as I did today.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Half listening to my body

Today's run (street): 4.2 miles

So much for focusing on speed, at least for today. Despite getting almost eight hours of sleep last night, I woke up with little energy. I considered listening to my body and skipping my workout, but I thought that was too extreme. As a compromise, I decided to forgo my original plan to do tempo run to start my training for the June 3rd NHP 8K. This run would have to be short and easy. 

Things started out fine and I had no expectations about my performance. I kept my pace moderate and, with the cool temperature and sunny skies, I should have enjoyed the run. I planned to keep it under 45 minutes so, by mile three, I was ready to turn toward home. It was surprisingly hard to cover that final mile. I finished feeling more tired than I should, for a four mile run.

I'm hoping that I recover sufficiently by tomorrow so I can go out for more miles. I don't regret my decision to run, but I'm glad I kept it short.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Treadmill theory disproved

Cadence is key
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I counted my steps during a recent treadmill run to confirm a theory I have about cadence. My hypothesis was that I typically achieve a higher cadence when running on the machine (compared to the road), because the restricted area of the treadmill forces a shorter stride. I thought that might be the reason why a moderate pace on the road feels much faster indoors.

The results of my test surprised me. At 6.5 mph on the treadmill, my strides per minute (SPM) count was 166. That was based on counting steps for 30 seconds and doubling the result. The ideal SPM number is 180 and that explains why I'm not that fast. I was a little surprised to see my theory disproved, but I also felt that my turnover was fairly rapid, considering the results. But the stopwatch doesn't lie.

I took my new test shoes out on the road for the first time today and really liked the experience. Despite feeling great throughout my run, my time was solidly average. I thought about focusing on cadence, but honestly, I didn't feel like pushing very hard at 4:00 AM.

I'm finally realizing that if I want to go faster I have to do the work. There's no easy trick for increasing speed and cadence. It's not better engineered shoes or energy supplements. It takes interval training sessions and frequent workouts that push me past my comfort zone. Some people see those things as part of the fun of running. I'm not quite there yet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I've got a secret (running shoe)

Yesterday's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I'm having another busy week that has caused me to miss two blog posts and today's workout. I'm hoping to get back on track tomorrow. In the meantime, I've been enjoying the experience of testing a new pair of running shoes for a company that I cannot name. In the past, I've been provided a good number of running shoes for review, but these models were already available in stores. I did receive my Kinvara 3's a month before retail launch, but had no influence on their design.

The shoes I'm evaluating are a work in progress and they will surely change before hitting the stores. I've done two runs in them (both indoors) so I'm curious to see how they feel on the road. They happen to be the type of shoes I'd consider as a primary trainer, and that makes the testing especially interesting. I filled out my first feedback report yesterday and liked being able to share my opinions with those who can shape the final product. I'll provide all the details once the testing is done (and I get an okay from the company to do that).

This video ad from Nike has been going around for a while, although I only saw it this week. I'm not a fan of Nike running shoes (my test shoes are not Nikes) but I really liked this commercial. It made me laugh when I watched it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Run a cold, rest a fever

Not for fevers!
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I'm battling a head cold and I think I might actually be winning. I'm not sure if it's true, but I've always followed the common wisdom, "Feed a cold, starve a fever." Although it's a bromide, it does seem to make sense. But, is it okay to run when you have a cold? How about when you have a fever? My guess is that the same concept works for both eating and running.

When I left my sedentary life in 2008, and took up running with a vengeance, I went months without taking a rest day. The sudden focus on diet and exercise probably supercharged my immune system. I don't recall getting sick once throughout that period. Eventually I caught a cold and established my policy for running when feeling ill. It's "Run with a cold, rest with a fever."

After my bout of pneumonia in late 2009, I learned to listen closely to my body. On Saturday morning I awoke with a sore throat. I didn't have a fever so I hit the trails and felt none the worse for it. On Sunday the cold remained, but I still put in some road miles. My fear that this hard running over the weekend would weaken me. Instead, I think it's helped to minimize the symptoms of this cold.

My sore throat has moved to my head, resulting in sniffles and an occasional cough. Still, I felt good enough today to do a brisk morning run on the treadmill. I've been waiting for my cold to increase its intensity, but so far it's remained mild. I guess you can't go wrong if you always follow the policy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hitting my goal with a rebound run

Today's run (street): 5.8 miles

I had two running goals coming into the weekend: a run on the trails, and covering at least 10 miles overall. Happily, I succeeded at both, although last night I was on the fence whether I'd even do a Sunday run. Throughout the day on Saturday, my throat became increasingly sore. By evening I felt very tired and I feared that I was coming down with strep throat. I put odds below 50% that I'd be in shape for a run when I got up today.

In the morning I felt a little better, and I took stock of  my illness. My throat was still a bit raw, but I decided that I had enough strength to go out for a few miles. My wife had been planting flowers in the backyard since 6:30 AM (we're early risers). When I went out to see her progress, I noticed that conditions were ideal for a run.

I had no route in mind for today, though I hoped to cover at least five miles. I was concerned about pushing too hard, as I was was wary of a relapse. I took off and knew right away that I'd have no issues with stamina or energy. I charted a course that wound through every part of the neighborhood.

It actually bothered me that, by the two mile mark, I was hardly sweating. I don't subscribe to the "no pain, no gain" school of exercise, but I want my run to feel like a workout. I stepped up my pace using arm speed to drive cadence, and by mile four I was feeling the effort. I stretched out my route to ensure I'd cover at least five miles, and I added another .8 by the time I made it home.

My base training has certainly helped me cover middle length runs with little fatigue. Perhaps I'll put a base run at Bethpage into my monthly rotation to preserve some of that base. It will be helpful as I go into 10K season near the end of summer. Next weekend I'll start focusing more on speed as I get closer the the New Hyde Park 8K. There's always something to train for. I guess that's the point of racing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Back to Bethpage and into the woods

Up and down and all around
Today's run (Bethpage State Park trails): 4.3 miles

My reward for all my half marathon training the past eight weeks was a trail run at Bethpage this morning. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that a lot of landscaping work that's being done at the park. I was curious to head towards the bike trail to see what was going on, but I was anxious to begin my run. I'll check that out next time.

For the first time in months, I headed to the trails on the northern side of Bethpage State park. As usual, the surface of the trail was well groomed, with a layer of wood chips across a very wide path. I followed the main route for a third of a mile before ducking into a side trail. I had little sense of direction as the trail wound through a series of twists and turns. The path went on and on and it made me wonder if I was just traveling in a big circle. I was really enjoying this section but hoping for some sign of a larger trail so I could get my bearings.

I finally broke away from that path and found my way toward the northernmost part of the woods. I turned south and headed along the western side of the woods for a while, before following a loop that (eventually) brought me close to where I'd started. I was close to my car by then, but I decided to run a loop around the parking lot before ending my run. After so many weeks of 10+ mile runs, 4 miles seemed very short.

Being back on the trail was a great experience. No thoughts of pace or mileage. I often lose my bearings when I run trails and that makes me feel both anxious and adventurous. I know I can't get too lost, but I often wish I had a better sense of where I am when I'm in the woods. I suppose I could carry a compass or my smart phone with GPS, that shows positioning in real time. But what fun would that be?

Friday, May 11, 2012

The key to capturing cadence

Cadence catcher
Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

I finally got outside this morning, for the first time since Sunday's race. The treadmill runs I did yesterday and Wednesday were fine, but I think I run differently on the machine, compared to the road. I wonder if it has something to do with stride length. Outdoors, I never think of how far I extend my legs when I come down, although I do focus on landing on my mid-foot. On the treadmill, a too-long stride is usually announced by the sound of the kick plate at the front of the tread. That feedback surely influences the way I run.

The shorter stride on the treadmill is not necessarily a bad thing, because it probably forces me to increase my cadence to keep up with the tread belt. Mid-foot running supposedly optimizes stride length, and cadence is used like a gas pedal to regulate speed.

This morning I pushed a little harder than I had during the past two workouts because I've recovered from my 13.1 mile run last weekend. I tried to use arm movement to maintain a brisk cadence, but in the end, my overall pace turned out to be just about average. I do wish my Garmin FR210 captured cadence so I could compare it to my speed over a run. Unfortunately, the GPS watch lacks that capability. I suppose I could always count steps. That, or go back to my FR60 that uses a foot pod to capture that metric.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Back to the Spiras, for now

Good buzz for the Stinger
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Another rainy morning has put me (once again) on the treadmill. I was fine with that. In fact I almost prefer the treadmill when I have limited time and want to have an easy workout. Running slowly outdoors means that I need to take more time to complete the loop back to my house. That results in less recovery and transition time before I start my workday. Advantage treadmill.

I'm due to post my reviews of the new Saucony Kinvara 3 and the Spira Stinger XLT running shoes on Runner's Tech Review shortly. I'd spent a few weeks running primarily in the Spiras while I waited for the Kinvaras to arrive, and then switched to running mostly in the Saucony's over the past few weeks. In between, I ran in the Saucony Hattori's for a 5K and for some treadmill workouts. This morning I went back to the Spiras so they'd be fresh on my mind when I start my writeup this weekend.

Although I do focus on running shows more than the average mid-pack runner, I no longer think that a shoe will make a measurable difference in my performance. More specifically, I don't think two shoes within the same genre (race, trail, etc.) will provide significant differences. It comes down to whether a shoe feels right, moves well and enables my best performance. The Spiras continue to impress and it's interesting to see how they'll compare to a Tier 1 player like the Kinvara 3.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What to try and what to buy?

Guessing it doesn't Worx
Guessing it does
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

With so many runners buying products from companies who serve a $5 billion-plus marketplace, you'd think there would be a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. Despite all the technology (and more recently, simplicity) that goes into running shoes, no one can definitively say that cushioned shoes protect better than minimalist trainers. While that debate continues, some things are a given: polyester shirts are superior to cotton for evaporating sweat. But there are still a few debatable items.

Among the giveaways offered at last weekend's race Expo, was a sample shot of Worx Energy. This bottle looks similar to those ubiquitous products that sit near checkout counters and promise 4 or 5 hour sustained energy. Were it true, 2 ounces of Worx could have sped me through the half marathon with two hours of energy to spare. Did I use it? No. Would I try it? No way.

I made the mistake of trying a Barracuda energy shot, that was included in a race goody bag a few years ago. I drank the mix 15 minutes before a trail run and felt a slight lift as I began my run. It didn't take long until I started feeling awful and I barely made it through my planned distance, at a pace far below normal. These shots may work for some, but count me out.

One item that's trending right now, is a post-run recovery shoe. My friend TC had a pair of Adidas slide sandals that he put on after we'd run the half and the benefit was immediately clear. My feet were howling in my Kinvaras and it took a foot bath with peppermint oil to bring them back to near normal. I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to buy a pair and she suggested that any comfortable shoe could serve that purpose.

Do recovery shoes help any more than a casual shoe or a slipper? Should I invest the $40 or so to get "recovery shoes"? Hard to know. But at least they won't make me feel sick.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The post-race question I'm always asked

Enjoy it while you can
The exhilaration that comes after a race has about the same shelf-life as a loaf of freshly baked bread. Right after a race, once I've re-hydrated, re-fueled and rested, the world looks perfect. Endorphins are still plentiful and I feel proud and satisfied. The day after a race has its charms, especially for me, because it's usually a Monday and I get to re-live the experience with work friends.

By the third day, the pride is still there, but the bread isn't quite as fresh. I begin to ask myself questions like "Should I have taken two rest days as planned, or powered through and done an easy run today?" and "What's next to do after all that base training to prepare for my half marathon?" By Tuesday, not too many people are asking about my weekend.

I was asked (four times) yesterday, if I was now going to do a marathon (or in one case, a real marathon). My answer remained the same: No. If all things were equal, but I were 20 years younger, I would probably consider running a full marathon some day. But for me, the ability to run a 26.2 mile race isn't something that I feel I need to do. If I can break 2:00 for 13.1 miles, that would mean more to me. An accomplishment like that would keep me excited, long past Tuesday.

Monday, May 7, 2012

My favorite thing about the race

Photo courtesy of Newsday
My favorite thing about yesterday's race wasn't the PR, the medal or the feeling of crossing the line after two hours of running. It was the fun of the day, being around people that I knew, who were sharing the same experience as me. Last year's half marathon was a singular effort. I traveled alone, ran the race alone and had little contact with anyone else until I'd finished the race.

I wasn't alone before or after the Half Marathon and it made a big difference for me. My family often joins me at races and it always feels special when they do. But a half marathon is a long time to wait on the sidelines for someone that you see only for a moment. I had my special after-race time with my wife and kids when I got home yesterday, and it was great.

Over the course of two hours and eight minutes, there's a lot of time to think. The field was crowded and that allowed me many opportunities to study the runners ahead of me. I'm always amused by what some people wear during a race. At other times, my mind drifted to non-race related things, and I found myself surprised to be passing mile markers so quickly. I spend a lot of time "in the zone" over that 13.1 miles.

Most importantly, I had fun while I ran yesterday's race, and that was completely opposite to my previous experience running the half. You train a lot and pay money to enter a race. If you don't enjoy it, you shouldn't do it. The LI Half was certainly worth the price of admission. In fact, it's much more than that.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Race Report: 2012 LI Half Marathon

Proud to earn the medal

LI Half Marathon: 13.1 miles -- 2:08:47 (PR)

This morning I ran my second half marathon and the results were (happily) better than the first. I finished the race almost 14 minutes faster than last year. All those weekends at Bethpage clearly paid off, and a healthy knee took care of the rest.  

My day started early and I was joined by my friend TC who came by my house at 6:00 AM. We did last minute preparations, like pinning bib numbers and packing our gear bags, before we headed over to Eisenhower Park. The roads were clear and we made good time. We quickly found parking spots and walked over to Charles Lindbergh Boulevard where the start of the race was being staged. In our excitement we forgot to take notice of where we'd parked. It was something we'd regret later.

Even though we were early, the crowd was already large. It quickly grew to thousands and, before we  knew it, race time had come. Last year there was a dearth of porto-pottys and this year it appeared as though they'd doubled the number. That made things much easier for people and prevented the need to use the grounds along the starting line as ad hoc facilities.

I located a spot in the 9:00 pace range and after some unexpected fireworks, the crowd was off. With over 5,000 runners on the move, we basically shuffled past the starting line. It was good that the race provided a starting line sensor that captured net times for runners, but for some odd reason "official" times are calculated from gun time. 

Consequently, my "official" pace was based on a time that was three minutes longer than my actual time.  It's a bad policy because it punishes people who follow the rules and line up at their pace range, rather than move to the front of the line. I really don't understand that. Since they record the runner's net times, why don't they use them?

But while this race is about performance, it's also about the experience. Knowing what to expect after running the race last year really helped me manage my expectations. The loop around Nassau Coliseum, that felt so long the last year, went by very quickly today. I couldn't believe how soon we reached the 5K mark and I appreciated my healthy knee when we passed the four mile sign. That was the moment of truth for me last year, when I debated whether to drop out to protect my knee.

I maintained a steady pace as I made my way up Post Road to Jericho Turnpike, stopping for the briefest time to grab water to wash down some GU Roctane I had put in my gel flask. That turned out to be a great way of managing fuel. I hit the 10K mark in just about an hour and I ran strongly through the next few miles. At one point, on Brush Hollow Road, a band was playing a fast tempo blues song that perfectly matched my cadence. Although I usually prefer silence when I run, I appreciated all the live bands that played for us today.

When I reached Wantagh Parkway I was still feeling good, but the sun had come out and the entrance to the Parkway was the steepest incline we'd yet encountered. I made it up fine and enjoyed some of the downhill sections, although one uphill section went on for a while. All along the race, I thought about the quote: "Run the mile you're in" and that helped me focus on the moment, instead of thinking about the miles ahead.

Once we hit Carmen Avenue I was pretty psyched because I knew that I would beat last year's time by a measurable amount. I was careful not to mistake the full marathon's 24 mile marker for a sign that we'd reached 12 miles (like I did last year) and when I saw the 11 mile marker, I knew I had enough in reserve to finish with some strength.

We entered the park and I actually needed to pass some runners on the narrow pathway. I saw my dentist up ahead and greeted him as I caught up. I yelled "Let's go!" and we picked up the pace. He was able to sustain it, but I needed to drop back to my previous pace after a couple of minutes. I knew when I was getting close to the end, and started to feel some excitement. My Garmin said 2:04 and I knew I had a good chance of breaking 2:10, which was my stretch goal.

The last quarter mile was hard and the crowd along the path was deep and LOUD. I saw the finish line and put in as much effort as I could until I crossed. I was in so much better shape than last year at the end. I saw TC, who had nailed the distance in 1:50, waiting near the line. We celebrated each other's performances and made our way slowly to the Finish Line Festival. The crowds were so thick that we decided to skip the festival and head to the UPS trucks to get our stowed gear.

We had no clue where to find our cars, so we walked around for over thirty minutes until we finally located the lot where we'd parked. I thought back to last year when I could barely handle the ten minute walk to my car after the race.

A foot soak with Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap helped a lot this afternoon and I'm going to take a couple of days off from running to recover. I am pleased and happy with today's race and I'm proud of my friends who also ran today. Is it realistic to think that I could break 2:00 in a half marathon some day? I'm not sure I can, but after today's race, I can considerate it a possibility.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crossing the T's before crossing the line

Staying the course on Sunday
There's less than 20 hours left until tomorrow's race. The only things left to do are to pick up my race number at the Expo and then prepare my gear. Actually, there's a lot of detail to that part. If the weather follows current predictions, we will have great conditions at the start of the race. In that case, I've identified which shirt, shorts and shoes (Kinvara 3's) I'll use. Along with that are many other tasks (filling my gel flask, charging my Garmin, SPIbelt items, sunglasses, warm up clothes, gear bag, etc) that must be completed.

Last year I made a list that came in very handy in the morning, because I was able to quickly verify that I had everything I needed before I left. I'll do the same this year. I'm still undecided if I'll start the race with bottled water that I can throw in the trash when I'm done with it. Water stations serve that purpose so I'll likely just use them instead.

Yesterday I went over the race course with a colleague, BL, who is running the LI Half for the first time (his first half marathon in fact). He's only been running for a year but he's made great progress and puts in the hard work to train. BL frequently races and that will yield benefits for him tomorrow.

Another colleague, TC, will be coming by my house around 6:00 AM tomorrow and we'll head to the race together. TC ran a 1:55 half marathon on a tough course two weeks ago and he is planning to run the Brooklyn Half next weekend. I'll see him at the start but I'm guessing he'll beat me to the finish line.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thoughts before my half marathon

I'll admit that I've assigned a lot more importance to this weekend's half marathon than is probably justified. After all, it's just a race, one of ten or eleven that I plan to run this year. It's not even my first half marathon. But the LI Half Marathon is important to me, because race performance is a reflection of all the work I've done to train for the event. Races validate conditioning and reveal shortcomings.

I think of Sunday's race two different ways. On one hand, I'll wake up early and think about the fact that I'll be racing a distance equal to traveling from mid-town Manhattan to Newark, NJ. Two-plus hours of constant motion -- running, not walking. On the other hand, I think about how almost every Saturday, for the past eight weeks, I've run a distance at Bethpage that was progressively longer than any run I've done this year. No stress on those runs. I just ran until I finished.

I hope I keep the latter point in mind as I line up for the 8:00 AM start on Sunday. I definitely want to do better than last year and, thankfully, I am not suffering the same knee pain that made the 2011 race especially difficult. I have a stretch goal time, a realistic goal time, an expected time, and last year's time. I'm curious to see what the timing clock says when I cross the finish line.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sunday's biggest challenge

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I planned to conclude my half marathon training with a run around the neighborhood this morning, but the weather didn't cooperate. No problem really, I just wanted the pavement experience when I worked on my stride. Instead, I went for a fast run on the treadmill, pacing about 15 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace for 20 minutes, and then stepping up to full race pace for the last five.

I didn't love starting as fast as I did this morning. My methodology for early morning treadmill runs has been to run slowly for the first five minutes, and then step up my speed every few minutes until the end. Today I just went for it, and after three minutes I wondered if I could sustain that pace for 22 more. I told myself that I run faster in races over longer distances and I'd get used to the speed. That's exactly what happened.

My experience last Saturday, when I began to feel negative about the run, was eventually corrected by the acknowledgement that most running difficulties (not counting injuries) are more mental than physical. I need to keep that in mind on Sunday when the going gets rough. And it will. I ran this course last year and I'm aware of certain mistakes I made. I hope to correct them this time. Nothing left to do now but rest and stretch. Three days and counting...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Alarm clock rest day

Snoozing through my workout
I'm sure it wasn't a subconscious decision, but I forgot to set my alarm this morning and missed my opportunity to run. I wasn't too disappointed to see that I'd slept 30 minutes late, because I know I don't get enough sleep during the week.

I have meticulously planned this week's workouts so that I'll be close to peaking before Sunday's race. However, I don't think that missing today's run will make too much of a difference. I was planning to do core exercises or some light upper body work tomorrow, but I may swap that for a final pre-race run. The major training has been completed. I'll know on Sunday how well I prepared.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fast Draw water bottle is leaving me dry

Stingy valve
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I tend to over-plan for races, sweating the details a week or so ahead of time. I do this in order to minimize race day surprises. Detailed planning generally works out for the best when I do this, and the bigger the race, the more I plan. One area of focus this week is hydration. Should I carry water? Gatorade? Nuun electrolyte mix? Should I use water stations instead? After experimentation, I've decided to go with water + gels. That seems right.

Still, the method of water conveyance remains undecided. After my Amphipod handbottle began to leak, I replaced it with an Ultimate Direction Fast Draw unit. It has an insulated wrap, gel pocket and rubber bite valve. When I put it in my hand, it seemed enormous, but that also meant I would be able to carry five more ounces of water than I could with my Amphipod.

I thought I'd try a test run with the UD bottle, in experior, as I wound down my training this week. When filled, the bottle seemed even more massive, but I kept an open mind. I ran on the treadmill this morning because of the rain, and carrying this water bottle made things slightly more complicated. The weight of the bottle concerned me, and I began to wonder if I'd want to carry it for two-plus hours on Sunday.

About a minute into my run I took a sip of water. Actually, I tried to take a sip, but I couldn't draw much water from the opening. I became concerned thinking, "How hard should it be to get water from a device that's specifically made to deliver water?" The answer was very, very hard. I put the bottle aside for the remainder of the run and decided on the spot to use water stations, rather than carry water, during the race

When my wife came in to use the treadmill, I mentioned my trouble with the UD bottle and she promised to look at it. She tends to do better than me with mechanical challenges. Since then, she has figured out the method to get water from the bottle (not so easy, actually) but I am sticking with my decision. As I recall, there are numerous water stops along the way, so I'm not risking much by running bottle-free.

I'm disappointed with my experience this morning but this is why we test!

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